The Koala Affair or how, without action, the reasonable becomes unreasonable

Sometime in the near future, a sleepy afternoon is made sleepier by the drone of a lecturer...

Good afternoon, comrades in education. I will be presenting today's seminar on "Avoiding Species-Based Discrimination in a University Environment." Before we begin, I would like to ensure that you are all authorized to receive the information that I am about to impart. Please, in compliance with the terms of the BOC Recarding Receipt, Form 2005/303-2 C, would you all show your identification cards – I would like to remind you that you have all signed agreements that require you carry these cards at all times.

I understand that some of you may have inadvertently left your idents at home, and I will have some flexibility; if you cannot provide identification, you must sign a loyalty oath.

Now, I have a few formalities to dispose with. As per the Janet Jackson Act of 2007, I will provide you with a brief summary of the content to follow.

I expect this presentation to last about fifteen minutes, followed by informal discussion, and to mainly focus on the issues of species discrimination, specifically on the so-called Koala Affair that has captured the nation's attention for the past few weeks. The chance of religious content, using the definition for religion proposed by Brennan in eir Science paper of 2007, is negligible. A careful analysis of my speaking style and the proposed text of this speech predicts a five percent chance of unexpected profanity. The probability of nudity is under a tenth of a percent.

I need hardly remind you of the events leading up to the current scandal – an anonymous complaint was filed, remarking that some chalked advertisements for the student election featured drawings that stereotyped koalas with the notorious epithet, "Koala bears." Our Koala-American students, of course, have been fighting against this pro-ursine prejudice for years, and, as the anonymous note pointed out, the slogan " Koala Bears are Kute – Vote for Kate!" is almost counter-revolutionary in its naïveté.

What I will attempt to do in this speech is provide some clarification in explaining how this transformed from a simple matter of species discrimination that could easily have been handled by the hospitality squad, to a major embarrassment to the university. With this knowledge, hopefully we can avoid events such as this in the future.

The Office of Diversity and Equity received the anonymous complaint on Friday, two weeks ago. The staffer who first read the letter, Norman Hague, immediately considered it to be a joke. If I teach you one thing in this talk, I would like it to be this: never ever disregard a complaint letter. This is the message which we have continually attempted to reinforce, and it is the best, safest way to deal with any claim of discrimination.

Luckily, despite Hague's bigoted belief that the letter was ridiculous, eir training got the better of em, and e forwarded the letter to a fellow worker, though with a note stating that e personally felt that it was not worth considering. Perhaps Hauge's mistake was not as egregious as we would imagine; after all, e was under the mistaken belief that there were no Koala-American students attending this school. True, there are no students who are ethnically Koala-American, a lack that we are attempting to remedy through affirmative action, but in a survey commissioned by the Office of Diversity, nearly one in student in fifty identified emself as Koala-American. This poll was conducted by asking random students on the Hill on Thursday night if they considered themselves to be Koala-American.

The next Office of Diversity worker who received the Koala Memo, as it is now termed, was Sandra Okuda, who initially agreed with Hague's assessment of the letter. Okuda noted that the letter had been sloppily typed, and was in fact covered in stains that smelled suspiciously of barley, malt, and hops. Reviewing the criteria for evaluating harassment and discrimination claims, though, Okuda found no disqualifier for "drunken fraternity prank," and did notice that the policy clearly stated that "Any supervisor who experiences, witnesses or receives a written or oral report or complaint of discrimination shall promptly report it to the Discrimination Council."

Okuda wrote a short report of the letter, and sent copies to the Discrimination Council and the Ombuds Office. The executive summary of these reports was sent to the interim president, who, fearing pressure from koala rights groups, immediately issued a "Vital Student E-Memo" disclaiming the actions of Kate Rogers, the now-disgraced Student Union candidate. When we at the Discrimination Council asked Kate for comment, e only reiterated her position, saying "Look, I know koalas aren't bears, but 'koala bears' sounds much more cutesy. I didn't even know there were any koala students here!"

This display of insensitivity prompted university officials to post "April is Koala Awareness Month" posters. These posters were plastered over the entire campus, covering the "April is Math Awareness Month," "April is Alcohol Awareness Month," "April is Workplace Conflict Awareness Month," "April is Autism Awareness Month," "April is Cancer Fatigue Awareness Month," "April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month," and "April is Sjogren's Syndrome Awareness Month" posters that had already been hung. The news of the scandal completely overwhelmed the previous top story, the beating death of two freshmen.

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